Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sesquicentennial at The Colony

by Catherine Bush

The Colony Theatre in Burbank knows its audience and Catherine Bush’s play (as well as The Whipping Man currently at the Pasadena Playhouse) each discuss the travails of the Civil War.  We meet, in particular,  Robert E. Lee (Bjorn Johnson) with his aide de camp, Colonel Walter Taylor (Shaun Anthony) as the North closes in. At the same time, Steve (call me Beau) Weeks (Brian Ibsen) has dragged his lovely wife, Dr. Jenny Weeks (Bridget Flanery), on a trip along the Civil War marker trail in search of his past. In particular, Beau wants to know about his great great grandfather Beauregard Weeks, who may have been associated directly with General Lee. 
Bridget Flanery and Bjorn Johnson star in the West Coast Premiere of the Colony Theatre Company's production of "THE ROAD TO APPOMATTOX" directed by Brian Shnipper and now playing at the Colony Theatre in Burbank.
PHOTO CREDIT:  Michael Lamont

Clever leaps of time from April, 1865 to present day Virginia on David Potts’ brilliant woodland set, bring Steve/Beau and Jenny in a parallel universe to where Lee discusses strategies to win the war, even in the face of sure defeat. 

As Steve/Beau and Jenny examine a marker along the trail, we hear a motorcycle.  Chip (a renowned Civil War Scholar) played by Taylor Pierce, finds Jenny alone in the woods and is immediately smitten.   Personal revelations emerge that get compared to Humpty Dumpty’s demise in the eleven year marriage of the young couple and also in the demise of Lee and his army.  Pierce appears in 1885 as well, as Captain Russell who, in the end pleads with Lee to reconsider his surrender. 

The problem for me with this play is that the story is interesting from an historic point of view both in 1865 as well as 2015 but holds little suspense and few surprises.  Director Brian  Schnipper is straight forward, guiding his cast in perfect costumes by Diane K. Graebner, through their paces.  The story unfolds neatly with Lee doing his best to be in command with communiqués continuing to arrive that announce that the pincers of the Enemy and General Grant are closing relentlessly.   

Bold tech lighting by Jared A. Sayeg and effects fill the stage as Lee scrambles to avoid defeat though the writing is on the wall as Richmond falls and the Road To Appomatox is inevitable. 

For history buffs and those who enjoy a professional performance of a marginally interesting evening of theatre, this is a not so challenging piece. Certainly,  dedicated actors bring the story, such as it is,  to life.  At the end, Lee appears in his full dress uniform and hopes he has dressed properly.  “I don’t know what to do.  I’ve never surrendered before.”

In this sesquicentennial anniversary of the defeat of the Confederate States, our attention brought to another era and the futility of war may be appropriate.  A fine cast and an appreciative audience made opening night one filled with energy.  The play itself is just a play. 

by Catherine Bush
555 N. Third Street 
Burbank, California
Opened February 14, 2015
Continues Thursdays  through Sundays
Closes March 15, 2015
Tickets and Information
818 558 7000 

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